New Artist Model
Dave Kusek is a multi-hyphenate: consultant, entrepreneur, author, speaker, educator and an artist development manager. He was Vice President at Berklee College of Music for 14 years where he created Berklee Online. In 2013, he founded the New Artist Model, an online alternative music business program for independent musicians, songwriters and producers.
You are a big proponent of artists managing themselves. Why is that?
Because artists should take control of their lives and careers. Although talent is important, the more artists know about the business the more successful they will be. If you’re serious about a career in music, there is no one who will take care of you like you would.
So, do artists need a manager?
I’m not saying artists should never have a manager or sign with a label. Both can be incredibly helpful. But, in order to attract either one you have to prove yourself and get results. And, most artists today have no choice but to manage themselves.
What approach should artists take when managing themselves?
They should realize that business and art are two sides of the same coin. If they apply the same creativity to the business side (as they do to their art), it can be exciting and productive. And once they start to see progress, motivation really kicks in.
You advise artists to form a plan. Can you explain the process?
They should ask themselves what they want to accomplish, what they like to do and what their definition of success is. The answers to those questions will help formulate a plan to reach their goals.
That’s a very business-like approach. Why should artists go down that road?
Today, artists need to be musical entrepreneurs. They need to develop their image and brand and know how to raise money and market their art. Often, if they don’t do it––it won’t get done. Artists have to realize that times have changed and they are responsible for their own success.
What common mistakes do you see artists making?
Not knowing about the business, and thinking that someone is going to discover them and make them a star is the most common mistake I see. Additionally, not asking for help when they need it can hurt their progress. Lastly, not connecting with the right people. You know, DIY (Do It Yourself) isn’t realistic anymore––there’s too much to do. Today, you need a team…I call it “doing it with others.”
How successful can self-managed artists be?
Well, we have artists in our program who are making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. It’s not millions like a superstar, but it is possible to make a living with your music, as long as you work at it and keep moving ahead. •